Friday, April 20, 2012

ECD Radio is On The Air!

Hey, Fellow Babies!

As a kid I didn't actively listen to the radio very often but whenever it was on in the background, it always seemed to proffer some sort of auditory revelation.  For example, I distinctly remember half-hearing the Peter Gabriel tune "Games Without Frontiers" on the radio back in 1980 and promptly becoming obsessed with it.

Ironically, it was television that really piqued my childhood interest in radio.  Even as a ten year old kid I had an inexplicable fascination for the following show:


Cripes, even people who were adults in the 70's probably don't remember that particular nugget of pop culture flotsam.

Hello, Larry was a sitcom that aired for two inexplicable seasons on NBC, back when the station's call letters stood for "No Body's Choice".  It centered around the life of Larry Alder (penitent M.A.S.H. deserter McLean Stevenson), a divorced radio talk show host who leaves L.A. for the greener pastures of Portland, Oregon (?).

Right from the start, Hello, Larry embodied every lame sitcom cliche: bland characters, contrived plots and broad attempts at "humor".  Whenever I'd ask my parents if I could watch it they'd scoff and respond with "Why?  That stupid show is too foolish to talk about!"  Late night czar Johnny Carson took frequent and merciless pot-shots at the beleaguered sitcom during his Tonight Show monologues.  Despite the critical drubbing and virtually non-existent ratings, NBC actually renewed it for a second season (which really says a lot about the sad state of the network at the time).

In a vain effort to staunch the hemorrhaging exodus of viewers, the producers shifted their focus away from Larry's time at the radio station to his mundane home life.  As a discriminating critic, I positively despised these changes and immediately stopped watching.  In losing their one and only dedicated supporter, Hello, Larry also lost its raison d'être and it was cancelled not long after.  

But, man, I loved that first season, which mainly featured Larry attempting to deal with his insane co-workers at the radio station, all the while heaping abuse upon the weirdos calling into his talk show.  So enamored was I of this concept that I promptly co-opted my Dad's tape recorder and invented my own radio station, appropriately named C.R.A.P.

I took the high-concept core of Hello, Larry and cross-pollinated it with sketch comedy shows like S.C.T.Vand Newfoundland's very own Wonderful Grand Band.  To ensure that my own good name would never be linked to such lunacy, I invented an on-air persona named Larry Lovebug.  Okay, so I wasn't the most creative kid in the world.

Originally a parody of the classically smarmy "RADIO VOICE", my Larry eventually morphed into an über-hostile version of the McLean Stevenson character.  He became a narcissistic, abusive jack-hole who held the other shows in open contempt and constantly bitched about the overall sorry state of the station.

There were several regularly scheduled programs on C.R.A.P., including a parody of Phil Donahue's talk show called The Phil Interview Show.  There was a darkly humorous (?) recurring skit about an old woman who experiences incessant bouts of cardiac arrest and the eternally on-call medical team tasked to aid her.  I staged elaborate radio plays featuring my Star WarsBuck Rogers and superhero action figures.  I had an ongoing horror series about explorers raiding the tomb of a restless undead mummy which spawned no less then four sequels!

Only my closest friends or my poor long-suffering parental units would ever be witness to this lunacy.  If we went on a road trip, I'd take my tape recorder along, much to the delight of my Mom and Dad.  Occasionally I have re-enforcements in the form of my equally loopy cousins Debbie and Donna.   Together we'd invent all sorts of zany characters and ridiculous shows, half of which seemed to be populated or hosted by stuffed animals.

Stephenville's own home-brew radio station / comedy gold mine C.F.S.X. was a frequent target for my sophmoronic wit.  I mercilessly spoofed the station's community events calendar via What's Goin' On? (hosted by the eternally enraged Suzie Seasick), poked fun at the Day & Ross Road Report (read by the barely-conscious Merry Dowdie), and parodied their daily radio market place show Teleshop (which I wittily re-christened as Teleslop, har de har-har).

As great as all of this high-brow humor was, the concept really took off when I first laid eyes on this classic show back in 1981:

Being only eleven or so at the time, I didn't quite get all of the subtle humor and innuendo on W.K.R.P., but I certainly fell in love with the characters and the music Johnny and Venus played.  This new data had a direct impact on my own enterprise.  Larry's last name became the infinitely more respectable "Drake", the format was switched from talk to modern pop and the station's call-letters changed from C.R.A.P. to C.F.A.P.  Which, in modern parlance, really isn't an improvement.

In order to facilitate the playing of music, I acquired a second tape player.  Whenever I wanted to introduce a song (usually from a K-Tel tape like "Right On", "Hit Express", or my own personal favorite "Star Tracks") I'd cue it up on the second player and then un-pause it when I was ready to roll.  This allowed me to blabber inane bullshit right up to the point when the lyrics began, just like a real D.J.!

Honestly, when you're twelve year old kid and figure this shit out, you feel like a friggin' savant!

I hit a metal phase in 1982, prompting a change in the music format.  Larry became a minor character and full-time foil for a new, hip D.J. named "David" (okay, imagination really wasn't my strong suit).  Although I'd sneak in the odd "retro" comedy bit or original radio play amongst all of the Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, all I really wanted to do was play pretend D.J. for music that I would never hear on the radio.  By the time I turned thirteen, I'd outgrown my fictional radio station and C.F.A.P. promptly went out of business.

It's a pity that some teacher or authority figure didn't discover my crazy secret broadcasting career.  If only I'd had the chance to funnel some of this unrefined yet manic energy into something productive like a High School drama class.  Oh, wait, our lame-ass High School didn't have a friggin' drama class...scratch that.

Nearly a decade later, the following movie rekindled my interest in radio:

Since we only got a half-way decent radio station here in Halifax just last year (in the blessed form of Live 105), the idea of starting up a pirate radio station has always been kind of attractive to me.  Although I have no desire to wax philosophical on the air like Mark Hunter in Pump up The Volume or Chris Stevens on Northern Exposure,  I would certainly liked to have heard The Pixies, Sonic Youth and Soundgarden on the local radio over the past twenty years.  

So, for the first time in almost three decades (*Yikes!*), I'm hosting a radio show courtesy of modern techmology and the Internetz.  Ive long since traded in my dual tape players for a single digital audio recorder.  My old, now-distorted analog magnetic tapes have been replaced by a massive CD collection rendered through my iPod.  And thanks to the magic of Audacity and Internet Archive, I can finally have listeners beyond the poor bastards within earshot of me.

Pleeze lissun if you wantz:

EPIC  Thank God, Vishnu, Crom, Zeus, Odin and Lemmy for internet radio.

FAIL  This show was a friggin' abomination.  And I liked Hello, Larry, fer Chrissakes!


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